Visually stunning, brutal and often misunderstood: When Starship Troopers was released in cinemas in 1997, the film went completely against the grain of many critics. Paul Verhoeven’s ambitious sci-fi flick has been decried by some as a callous battlefield, others interpreted the film as a brutalizing paean to the military. In Germany, the unabridged version was even on the index for years. Director Verhoeven defended himself against the allegations, the film found countless fans – and enjoys a little bit of cult status today. However, it is doubtful that the same will be said about Starship Troopers: Terran Command in 25 years. Because the real-time strategy game is anything but cult, it shows clear flaws in the test and can hardly hide its low budget. And still: We had a lot of fun with the thing!
Because the developers of The Artistocrats have understood what is important: respectful handling of the license, coupled with solid gameplay and a decent atmosphere – that’s all it takes for a few entertaining hours. And the price reflects that too: With a fair 25 euros Terran Command confidently positions itself in the second row and doesn’t even try to compete with heavyweights like Total War or Age of Empires 2. Terran Command bakes smaller buns, sometimes using fairly cheap flour. But if you’re not expecting an expensive gourmet sandwich anyway, that’s absolutely fine.
Terran Command is set after the first film and does not use any well-known characters. All we know is that the war between humans and bugs – a deadly insect race – is still raging. By the way, the game doesn’t tell us who we are: As players, we are not part of the plot and therefore do nothing more than issue commands. Terran Command also doesn’t offer multiplayer, skirmish or special modes, instead focusing entirely on its single player campaign which should keep you busy for around 15 hours. This time, the campaign against the bugs takes you to the desert planet Kwalasha, which is visually very reminiscent of Klendathu from the film template: So you mainly see rubble, sand and here and there a few buildings, some levels also play in underground caves and mines or in a devastated city setting. The gameplay is completely linear, so there is no strategic map or decisions between missions. You can’t take over units from one chapter to the next or expand a tech tree – the developers have saved all that.
Tower Defense: In the siege battles we have to defend a base on multiple fronts. [Quelle: PC Games]
Instead, there’s a mix of solidly designed missions, most of which all boil down to the same goals. As a rule, you either have to rid the map of bug colonies and smoke out their underground burrows, or you have to defend a base against increasingly powerful waves of attacks while the insects advance with giant arachnoids and other mindless creepy-crawlies. In the indoor missions you cannot order supplies, in the outdoor levels you usually have unlimited reserves available for this.
In some levels you will also be regularly shot at by plasma bugs, which are basically huge artillery units with enormous range. Every now and then there are also small escort missions on the program. So the mission design isn’t particularly imaginative, but that’s okay for the playing time and sometimes even gets really exciting: on the third of five levels of difficulty, we rarely really sweated, but in some situations it got tight. Terran Command conveys the feeling of fighting against a numerically far superior insect army.